Historical background briefly: Finland was a province of Russia until 1917. Although the declaration of independence was given in December 1917, the process started much earlier. One breakpoint was the "February manifest" set by Nikolai II, the czar of Russia in 1899. With the manifest, the czar tried to take away most of the privileges Finland had had under the Russian command; the official language was to be Russian etc. This started a wave of protest, including the murder of general-governor Bobrikov, the representative of the czar in Finland, in 1904. Finally it was Vladimir Lenin who allowed Finland to become independent, but unfortunately this started a civil war, as the socialists wanted a more fundamental change in the society, but could not take over the northern parts of the country.
The movie itself covers a time period of over 100 year, trying to describe the whole process from the common people's point of view. It shows us few real incidents combined together by the main characters lives. All the people are very patriotic... to the extent of fanaticism.
Unfortunately the movie is pure propaganda, and from a more modern perspective, very bad propaganda. It really hurts seeing relatively skilled actors behaving like a bunch of brainwashed idiots. The national romantic era was long over in literature, but in this case, it doesn't seem to be over in the movies. National anthem and the most famous marches playing most of the time. The kid keeping a piece of paper, mentioning the independence day, on his heart. And altogether the over-dramatic way the people speak out loud their decisions to sacrifice everything for the fatherland... it would make me feel physically sick, if it wasn't over sixty years ago when this movie was made. Maybe the most annoying thing is the completely biased image given of the civil war. On the other hand, this is the perspective of the upper class.
Good actors can't save a piece of trash. Of course, the movie is interesting from the historical point of view, because less than a year after the release of the film, Soviet Union attacked Finland. Therefore it is interesting to see how the people of those days saw the relationship between Finns and Russians. On the other hand, it is easy to laugh to old propaganda films as well as to old science fiction. But I still grade movies as pieces of art, and this movie is very bad even in the context of propaganda.
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